If you asked a non-Canadian to name Canadian cities, most people would be likely to know Vancouver and Toronto. These two cities are on opposite sides of the country, Toronto on the east coast and Vancouver on the west.
Both cities have wide appeal and are popular choices among immigrants to Canada because they are vibrant and cosmopolitan cities. But how do these cities compare with each other? Is one city better than the other?
In this article, we have collated information about different aspects of life, such as the cost of living and property, things to do, and employment opportunities in both cities to help you decide which city has the edge.
Toronto is the biggest city in Canada and has a population of 2,731,571 compared to Vancouver’s 631,486. The population of the Greater Toronto Area is 6.4 million and the metro area population of Vancouver is 2,632,000.
Even though Vancouver has fewer people, it is more densely populated than Toronto with a population density of 5,492 km² compared to 4,334 km² in Toronto. In fact, Vancouver is the most densely populated city in Canada, followed by Toronto.
The reason Vancouver is so densely populated despite having a smaller population is its land area. The land area of Vancouver is only 115 km² whereas Toronto is 630.21 km².
Vancouver and Toronto are both very multicultural cities. In Vancouver, 42.5% of the population was born outside Canada, in Toronto the percentage is 47%. Toronto is the younger of the two cities, with a median age of 36.9 compared to 41.9 in Vancouver.
Cost of Living
Vancouver and Toronto are both among the more expensive cities in Canada, but which of the two is more expensive? Comparing the cost of living for a family of three, there is not a lot of difference between the cities. In Toronto, a family of three will spend, on average, $4,975 per month compared to $4,923 in Vancouver.
Let’s break these figures down. The monthly cost includes the rent of a two-bedroom apartment with utilities, the cost of running a car, food costs for three people, and the cost of preschool.
(Rent + Utilities)
From the table, we can see that Vancouver is more expensive in three of the categories: rent and utilities, car and food costs. However, the cost of preschool is so much higher in Toronto that it ends with a higher monthly total than in Vancouver.
However, if we look at the other factors without the preschool, then we can see that Toronto is cheaper for people with no preschool-aged children. That could explain why Toronto has a younger population because it is more affordable than Vancouver for singles and childless couples.
Cost of accommodation
Vancouver and Toronto have the most expensive real estate in Canada. The average house price in Toronto in July 2023 was $1,118,374 compared to $1,270,664 in Vancouver.
Here are benchmark prices for three types of properties in both cities. A benchmark price is the price of a typical home in a given area.
Since not everyone is looking to buy a property, how do rents compare in the two cities? Let’s look at the average rental prices. In Toronto, a one-bedroom city centre apartment costs $2,109 compared to $2,257 in Vancouver. A three-bedroom city centre apartment is $3,451 in Toronto and $4,400 in Vancouver. These figures show Toronto is the cheaper city to rent.
Livable wage and average salaries
A livable wage is what a person or a family needs to live comfortably in an area. A person should have money not just for the necessities, but also for free-time activities and savings. It differs from minimum wage, which, unfortunately, is often lower than the actual livable wage.
In Toronto, a livable wage is $22.08 per hour and the minimum wage is $15.00. In Vancouver, they are $20.91 and $15.20. There is a big difference in both cities, but more so in Toronto, between the minimum hourly rate and what a person needs to earn per hour to live comfortably.
So, what do average salaries for different professions look like in Toronto and Vancouver? And how do they compare? These average salaries are from Indeed.com.
Vancouver $/ per hour
Toronto $/ per hour
Retail Sales Person
Most of the salaries we compared are higher in Vancouver. Only plumbers and civil engineers earn a higher average salary in Toronto. Employees on the lower tiers of the retail and service industries earn below the livable wage in both cities. And the hourly rate for waiters and bartenders in Toronto is only just above the minimum wage.
A key factor when deciding where to move to is whether are there job opportunities. How easy or difficult will it be to find work? In July 2023, Vancouver had an unemployment rate of 5.5% and Toronto 6.8% so both cities have fairly low unemployment. There is plenty of work for skilled professionals in both cities.
Vancouver is home to many local and international organisations, including IBM, Koda, Nokia, Microsoft, and HSBC. These companies employ thousands of people in the city. The largest port in Canada is in Vancouver. It handles up to $200 in cargo every day and provides over 60,000 jobs.
The city is one of the top film and TV locations in the world which provides various jobs such as costume designers, make-up artists, and camera operators. However, the biggest sector is the sales and service industry, which provides jobs for almost a quarter of Vancouverites.
Toronto has very similar employment opportunities. It is a centre of finance, business, arts, and culture and draws in millions of tourists every year. Many multinational companies, including ASUS, Intel, Coca-Cola, and Westons have their headquarters in Toronto. The largest employer in Toronto is the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, which employs around 15,000 people.
Other main employment sectors include film and media, aerospace, and fashion. As well as being the home of Canada’s largest media outlets and broadcasters, Toronto is also a popular location for big-budget films. The aerospace sector is the second-largest in Canada and employs about 20,000 Torontonians. Even more people work in the fashion industry, which provides over 50,000 jobs in Toronto.
There are both public and private schools in Vancouver and Toronto. The public education system is free for Canadians and those who have a permanent residency or a working visa.
There are 92 public elementary schools in Vancouver and 18 secondary schools. Before starting elementary school, children in Vancouver can take part in a program called StrongStart which is a free initiative enabling children to interact with others while learning through stories, music, and art.
Vancouver has highly rated private schools which include religious, international, and special needs schools. They have smaller class sizes and facilities that many public schools cannot provide. The cost of private schools varies from $4,000 to $80,000 per year.
In Toronto, children can attend kindergarten programs from the age of four before starting at elementary school. The District School Board of Toronto is the largest school board in Canada. It educates close to 300,000 students and looks after over 450 elementary schools and 110 secondary schools. It also looks after five adult education schools.
There are over eighty private schools in the Greater Toronto Area and, similarly to Vancouver, they include religious, international, and special needs schools. The cost for private schools in Toronto ranges from $6,400 to $68,540 per year.
Both cities are popular with Canadian and international students and have excellent higher education options. Here are some of the popular universities and colleges in both cities.
University of British Columbia
The University of Toronto
University Canada West
Simon Fraser University
There are also well-known business schools that offer MBA programs and excellent placement opportunities. The top business schools in Vancouver are the Rotman School of Management and the Schulich School of Business. The Sauder School of Business and Beedie School of Business are among the top business schools in Toronto.
Things to do
Whether you are looking for culture, arts, places to eat and drink, or opportunities to exercise, there are plenty to choose from in both cities.
In Vancouver, you can spend time in Stanley Park which covers 1,000 acres and has, for example, beaches, playgrounds, botanical gardens, tennis courts, and is great for spotting wildlife, sometimes even whales. Or you can head to the public market at Granville Island where you will find food shops, restaurants, and art galleries.
Grouse Mountain is another local favourite where you can hike and zipline in the summer and snowshoe and ice skate in the winter. A trip to the top in the gondola gives you amazing views of the city and the ocean.
During weekend and holiday evenings from May to October, you can visit the largest night-time market in North America. You can eat and shop and there is also live music and entertainment.
In Toronto, you can see a show at the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre which opened its doors in 1913 and is the world’s largest double-decker theatre with two auditoriums on top of each other.
If you fancy shopping until you drop, you can head to PATH, which is an underground shopping complex below Downtown Toronto. It stretches over 28 kilometres, has over 1,200 stores, and is open 365 days per year.
Lake Ontario offers Torontonians plenty of opportunities for water sports. You can, for example, kayak or paddleboard and even take part in a five-hour paddling tour from Kew-Balmy Beach to Bluffers Park. Getting out to the lake is also the best way to view Toronto’s impressive skyline of skyscrapers.
Since Vancouver and Toronto are on opposite ends of Canada, you can expect the weather to be very different.
The temperature fluctuates more in Toronto and the summers here are hotter and the winters colder than in Vancouver. In the summer, the average high is around 26°C, but the temperature can climb up to 35°C. In the winter, it can get as cold as -30°C. Luckily, it doesn’t stay that cold for long and the average low in January, which is the coldest month, is -7°C.
Vancouver’s winters are a lot milder, with the temperature staying above zero even during the coldest months. Even in January and February, which are the coldest months, the average minimum temperature is 3°C. Summers are not as hot with the average high for July and August at 22°C. The biggest drawback of the weather in Vancouver is the rain. It rains so much that the West Coast has been nicknamed the Wet Coast.
Now that you know more about Vancouver and Toronto, it might be easier to decide which city is better. But then again, it might not since they are both such fantastic cities with plenty to offer both residents and visitors.
Whichever city you choose, you will be in a place with high living standards, excellent employment opportunities, a great education system, and plenty to do in your free time.
Frequently Asked Questions
In both cities, the livable wage is more than the minimum wage for the province. In Vancouver, you need to earn at least $20.91 per hour and in Toronto $22.08 per hour to live comfortably.
There is not a lot of difference between Toronto and Vancouver, which are both expensive cities. While some things, such as rent or food costs are slightly less in Toronto, other things, including childcare will cost more.
Toronto has a bigger population, the biggest in Canada. By land area, Toronto is the bigger city again.
This depends on the profession. While some jobs will pay better in Vancouver, others pay better in Toronto. The best thing to do is to compare the salaries on, for example, on recruitment sites.
For anyone who is not a fan of cold winters, Vancouver has better weather as winters are a lot milder than in Toronto. However, it rains a lot more in Vancouver. The summer temperatures are quite similar, but the summers are drier in Toronto.